Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer
How much to invest in your wedding photographer
Have you considered how much you should spend on wedding photography for your big day? If you just thought “Yeah, I have been wondering about that!”
This post is for you!
Wedding photography can come at so many different price points. Some websites even tell you. A specific amount or percentage of your wedding budget. These are all relative numbers.
On the other hand, you will want something that is a bit more “tailored” to you so that you can be sure you’ll be happy with the quality, amount, and captured moments that you’ll receive after your wedding. No one wants to wish they would’ve hired someone else on one of the biggest days of their lives.
After you read this post about “How much do wedding photographers cost,” you’ll have a general or specific idea about all of these things:
- The average wedding photographer cost in 2023
- The myth of 10%
- What are the different factors that influence cost and which ones are important to you specifically on your wedding day?
- Are wedding photographers (and wedding vendors) overpriced in general?
- What is the average cost of a wedding photographer in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and the surrounding areas?
How much do wedding photographers cost?
Average costs when talking about wedding photographers is a VERY abstract concept. To make sure you book the RIGHT photographer for you rather than just the average, you need to not only look at “how much does a wedding photographer cost in the Baton Rouge area” but more accurately “how much does a wedding photographer cost that also focuses on what I personally want and value most.”
Do you love the seemingly natural photos with real smiles? Do you want lots of formal photos? Someone who values vogue, overly-posed photos is going to photograph for just that during the wedding (think the groom is sitting and the bride is standing and has her hand on his shoulder and they’re both looking the opposite direction) so knowing if you want those types of photographs is super important!
When you know what you actually value and what is beautiful or perfect to you, then you’ll be able to find photographers and photographs that can give you what you LOVE rather than photographs that are “good enough.” After that, you’ll be able to have a realistic price range while also sometimes even adjusting your overall wedding spending to accommodate for your photography.
To start, we must have an average ball park range of photographers in groups.
From there, we can determine how much YOUR wedding photographer should cost based on what you want and value.
- Brand new wedding photographers: $0-700 (Just starting out and may or may not have photographed a wedding yet)
How you’ll likely feel: This is a risky spot. For family photos, MAYBE chance it! You can always have them redone by someone else. For wedding photographs, it’s a one-day event. Most of the time, they cannot make you feel confident that they’re going to deliver the photographs that will make you happy or that you’d expect. You're assuming all the risks here.
- Beginner: $500 - $1000
(They may have shot some weddings but may have only been the second photographer rather than the head photographer and don’t have a high demand nor the consistent style that demands a higher price point.)
How they’ll probably make you feel: You’ll probably have seen some examples of other weddings that they have been a part of and also may feel that they *MIGHT* could “pull it off.” They probably will not be able to make you feel as comfortable with providing natural posing and other skills that experience brings in higher level photographers. You assume a greater risk in this category.
- Amateur: $1000 - $2500
(They probably photograph weddings fairly regularly as a second photographer or even as the main photographer but may not have a refined, consistent style and may not be considered full-time.)
How they likely will make you feel: At this level, the photographer generally would be striving to provide a solid service at a sustainable price point for maintaining quality camera equipment. The risk here is that you will have the photographs but they may not look consistent with their other work. They may photograph your wedding as a dark and moody photographer rather than light and airy like you expected.
- Growing Amateur: $2500 - $3500
(They probably have a more sought-after, consistent style and may photograph many weddings per year so therefore don’t always have an amazing client experience. They are beginning to get in the “professional” category.)
How you’ll more than likely feel: At this point, it’s fairly common for the photographer to be investing in education, backups, and gear to further their business. They probably have some sort of a portfolio and can show you more of what they feel they can provide. If your or their computer were to crash, they likely have backups of your wedding photographs but may not have planned for this and will likely take longer to deliver your photos. Your peace of mind may be at risk knowing that you made a risky investment.
- Professional: $4000 - $6000
(They typically are full-time business professionals who are niched down to a specific area of photography so that they can be amazing in that arena. They have experience and consistency in their style, expertise, and authority. They may have luxury-type items to offer after your wedding.)
How they likely will make you feel: They are established with a specific style. They have structured their business to make sure you feel loved and cared for with an emphasis on providing high quality photographs.
(They sometimes have a starting price anywhere from $6k, $10k, $20k, or higher. Typically, they are more established with a consistent workflow, style, and luxury items to offer after the wedding.)
How you likely will feel: They can handle hi-profile weddings easily and strive to make you feel loved and cared for. They usually have a sought-after and refined style that makes sure your wedding photographs are something that you can look back on in printed artwork. They can handle any lighting situation that they are up against.
The Myth of 10% and Why You Should Focus on the Photographs You will make you Smile and Cry Happy Tears for Years to come
At some point, it became trendy to use the 10-15% rule meaning you would use 10-15% of your overall budget on your photographs. The concept isn't all bad but there are a couple issues with that mentality.
The issue that arises with that rule is if you truly value having lasting memories and real emotions photographed, you may want to invest more than just 10%. Personally, we’ve seen that many couples save elsewhere in the wedding budget, like the guest list or decorator, to make up for the difference that they want and value in their wedding photographs since it's the only thing they have left after it's all said and done.
Another possibility would be to determine which photographer you MUST HAVE, then building your wedding budget around that. This way of thinking can help you then to make a list of things that are top priority for you personally adding them to the top, add those up after you figure out realistic pricing for each, and start trying to find ways to cut things from the very bottom of the list.
How much do wedding photographers cost?
If you and I are alike at all, you would love for me to just give you a quick and short-and-sweet answer to “how much should I spend on wedding photos?” How much do wedding photographers cost? It’s not QUITE that easy but here’s the quick answer.
The short-and-sweet answer is anywhere from $250-$30k or more!
Yes, I know. That’s a massive gap! I promise, though, I’m not trying to be facetious. There are so many factors that go into how much a wedding photographer costs, that that’s in direct correlation with what you personally should spend on a wedding photographer based on what you value.
At AlesiaKim Photography, we want you to focus on the value that you are looking for so that you will be happy with the product in the long run so you get what YOU want! (Whether you decide to pay $500 or $50k)
There’s a few different factors that determine how much wedding photographers cost. Here’s a few of them without getting too detailed then we'll break down each one below.
- Included Products
- Business Costs
Why do wedding photographers cost so much or so little?
In a general sense, you get what you pay for when it comes to wedding photography. When a photographer is in high demand in their area, it generally is directly related to their pricing structure, packages, consistent artwork, and availability in the different markets in the USA. It’s difficult to say a cookie cutter answer but the explanation here will help you determine pricing in your area on this pivotal decision of a wedding photographer.
Wedding photography pricing and pricing in general is location specific. Living in an area where the cost of living is higher, naturally the standard pricing reflects that cost. For example, if you live in Washington D.C. where the cost of living is almost doubled (or perhaps more) than a rural town in Mississippi, the average starting price may be $6000 as opposed to $3000.
In general, if the city is larger and the median level income is higher, the higher the standard or starting prices will be.
Many times, people don’t recognize this, but it almost always is one of the most basic factors that have an effect on pricing. The photographer's lifestyle is affected when it comes to price point.
For example, if the photographer is single as opposed to married with children (educational expenses, mortgage payments, etc.), the photographer's priorities will be different.
This specific example (of a mortgage payment and educational expenses) may not relate you to personally but you will generally be drawn to someone who is who you want to be like or someone with whom you can easily relate. That particular person may or may not require charging a higher price to provide for their family.
There is one thing, though, that has been proven time and time again. The photographer that does not balance lifestyle and the work they do with the profit that is required to support that life will quickly not be in business anymore. That being the case, you may or may not have your wedding photographs when it's all said and done. I know a girl that invested a couple thousand into a photography company (in Baton Rouge) that went out of business just after her wedding and SHE NEVER RECEIVED A SINGLE PHOTO OF HER WEDDING DAY! How awful would that be?? :-( With a higher priced photographer, you’ll likely be paying for the lifestyle along with the long-term stability that a higher priced and more experienced photographer offers.
Expertise can be thought of the ability of the photographer to photograph in any given scenario. Most of the time, expertise and experience go hand-in-hand. In spite of that, sometimes a photographer who has photographed for a longer time may not have as much technical skills as some other photographer that has only been photographing for five years.
Expertise usually looks like this:
- Literal photography skills (ability to handle any lighting situation whether bright light or dim light and every other possibility.)
- Abilities in handling personal situations (skills in communicating with family and bridal party for formals along with fun photos)
- Communication skills to help you feel as comfortable as possible and beautiful and your spouse to feel as comfortable as possible as well
- Business stability to provide a consistent service with proven product
Expertise almost always raises the starting price because it’s directly related to the demand and appeal. If you are trying to determine a photographer's expertise, check out their reviews along with a full wedding day gallery. This will determine value as well as give you a general idea of what your photos will look like from different lighting situations during the day. A photographer with more expertise in lighting will be better at night photos as opposed to a beginner or amateur that may not be able to adapt.
Even though experience and expertise have a lot in common, experience shouldn’t be forgotten about altogether either since they’re not ALWAYS related. For example, a photographer that has shot hundreds of weddings has more mental notes from things that they have seen work and things that they have seen that don’t work. (Schedule changes, first looks, tension in different family situations, late timelines, etc.)
If the photographer has shot at that venue multiple times, they are more easily able to choose and direct more quickly since they have been there before and already know the ideal spots for those specific shots. An experienced photographer may even visit the property beforehand or find a map with photos online so they can get a good feel of the place so they have ideal location ideas for family formals, first looks, etc.
The experienced photographer also always has a backup plan not only for your literal photos backing them up after the fact but they have a backup camera in case of faulty equipment during the ceremony so the first kiss isn't missed because "my camera stopped working all of the sudden!" Again, a photographer that “does their homework,” so to speak, is going to cost a little more than the average.
Since it is highly subjective and even debated, style is something that depends on that particular photographer’s values and personal artistry and would affect how they photograph and edit. A higher priced photographer will have crafted a specific look and emotion (whether happy, sad, or even emotionless) with their photos based many times on the demand in the market that they serve.
As a general rule, the style satisfies the demand with an addition of artistic quality, emotion, philosophy, and public desire. A consistent style gives you confidence that your photos will look the same or very close to the coloring and exposure of the photographer’s other weddings.
In a more practical sense, some people like more bright, clean photos that are not necessarily trendy so we see things as they actually are as opposed to some that prefer a more dark, original type photo that takes you to a place that is maybe ethereal or beyond reality. The difference is basically “bright and airy” as opposed to “dark and moody.” There are other posing styles as well with natural posing being one as opposed to editorial posing.
In general, the style you choose will determine the demand for the photographers in your area with that style and will determine the pricing for that.
This is to be assumed but we can't leave it out since it's so important but the more things that are offered in the package, the more the photographer has to take that out of their profits and therefore, the more expensive the package will be. If a photographer offers a base package that has nothing included then you add from there, that base will be able to be more inexpensive since they’re paying business costs, time before and after the wedding, and gear but nothing more.
This is something that I believe people forget about but is almost always a huge factor in determining the price point that your photographer has chosen as well. Aside from the cost of time itself, photographers pay for editing software, gear, more gear, gas for travel, programs to cull through images, self-employment tax, credit card fees, computers, advertising, client gifts, etc. Many things go into the cost of business.
What comes in photography packages?
Different pricing structures also affect pricing. Some photographers will start at a higher price point but also offer more value in their packages whereas some others may include essentially nothing with the option to add-on to the most basic package.
One photographer generally begins at a lower price point, but another photographer may be as expensive to add because of the structure of their pricing. Grouping things together generally allows you to get more value at a lower price point.
Here are some examples of things that you may or may not want included.
- Main photographer - determining whether it is the owner of the company photographing on your day or an associate/team member
- Second photographer - generally a team member or hired second with experience in wedding photography
- Heirloom quality album (there are usually upgrades available here)
- Engagement Session (upgrades are sometimes offered here as well)
- Bridal Session
- Timeline of your wedding day
Do wedding photographers deceptively overcharge?
A little while back, a video was posted that stated that wedding vendors charged more simply because the word “wedding” was attached to it.
Although I understand some of the frustration when trying to search and stay within budget, here's what the person didn’t realize.
- Is a Christmas party REALLY the same as a wedding?
- Is it a once-in-a-lifetime event?
- Do family and friends get together that fly or drive in from all over the world?
- Is it an event that requires hours upon hours of work before and after the event?
- Does it usually have multiple locations?
- Is it an all-day event that costs up to 1-2 hours of preparation plus 8-10 labor time for vendors just for the actual event day?
Most of what was mentioned here applies to any vendor that might be a part of your wedding. Weddings are NOT the same as a Christmas or birthday party when you consider everything involved in a wedding. A wedding involves a large mental and physical workload.
Different photographers have different workflows but just one wedding generally can account for this amount of direct hours of work.
2-4 hours of preliminary emailing, phone calls, and meetings
2-3 hours for engagement session (travel + shooting time)
1-3 hours of uploading, editing, exporting, and delivery of the engagement photos
2-3 hours of timeline prep and communication to get it finalized
10-15 hours of work on the event date (prepping gear, local travel, set up, coverage of the day, breaking down, photo transfer, photo backup)
10-30 hours of culling and editing time
2 hours of backup, organizing, uploading, and delivery
1-2 hours of ordering and delivering the included artwork or items for the couple
That’s at least 30+ hours per wedding on the MOST conservative side of actual labor costs. That doesn’t even count expenses!
Keep in mind, that list left out gas money, the second photographer, camera gear, camera lighting, education, marketing, business insurance, business software, etc.
That all taken into consideration, it’s very safe to say that a photographer spends at least 60-80 hours per wedding considering all of the above tasks plus the extras that the photographer may include in their specific workflow.
As a simple example, if a photographer needs to make just $50k per year after business expenses (maybe $20k worth of expenses per year) and they’re willing to shoot 40 weddings a year which is almost every weekend in the year, they would need to charge $1,750 per wedding with a second photographer and nothing extra included.
This would come out to making about $15/hr (maybe less.) Don’t forget too that taxes still have to come out after all that. (Self-employment tax is 15.3%. )
If you’re paying $1,750 for a main and second photographer, I’d say you either have a photographer that is investing very little into their business , clients, or themselves, and someone also that’s working super hard for ~$15/hr (before taxes) and doing business for free essentially.
Not trying to be judgmental at all, but $15/hr seems pretty cheap for being a professional artist for one of the most important days of your life that you can’t recreate, right?
Baton Rouge, LA wedding Photographer Costs and Surrounding areas
As a general rule, the ranges seem to be fairly close to what they are above in this specific area. (Take into consideration that Baton Rouge and New Orleans themselves have a bit. higher of starting price since they're larger cities.)
- $500-$1000 (just starting and may or may not have shot a wedding)
- $1000-$2000 (may have shot a few different weddings as a second photographer but may not have the demand or consistent style so you may or may not get what you saw on their website)
- $2000-$3000 (probably has a more consistent style and starting to get a large volume of weddings but may not be full-time)
- $4000-$6000 (have a consistent style and demand and are considered full-time)
- $6000 + as their starting prices (more established, refined and sought after style, along with luxury artwork and products)
Again, with luxury wedding photographers, these are mostly starting prices. You can generally expect to spend $9k with the photographers that start in the $4k-$5k range if that’s the package you choose. These specific prices aren’t fixed; they fluctuate with the market as well as the cost-of-living. Sometimes, you really can get a “good deal” at a lower price point but you are also let go of the peace of mind and assume the greater risk.
Now you can take the guessing and risks out of your wedding photography and be able to make an informed decision so that you will have wedding photographs to look back on with a smile for years to come.
Know your once-in-a-lifetime memories WILL be captured.
Find out the most up-to-date pricing and availability by filling out the contact form below!
4 Hours Wedding Day Coverage
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A photograph is so valuable when
it's the only thing you have left.
"You can tell the moment Alesia walked into the church she had a set vision. She helped guide us for the best poses. Alesia is a kind and joyful spirit. You can't help but smile when you are working with her and we definitely look forward to working with her in the future."
How do you photograph weddings?
I love being by your side to help you before your wedding day! I'll send you a guide to help you with planning and your pre-wedding sessions. On your wedding day, I want to capture the feelings, the mood, the emotions, the calm and crazy moments, and all the details that make your wedding unique. That's why I decided to photograph such luxurious and heartfelt weddings.
Where are you based and do you travel?
I'm in Louisiana based in the United States and yes I love to travel! If you want me to photograph your story, it will require a travel fee, depending on where it takes place. But no worries, I always try to find the cheapest way to come because I love the way creativity blooms in new places! When I discover new locations, it opens up my eyes to all kinds of possibilities! I want it to make sense for you and be the best day of your life!
When will we get our photos?
You will receive an online gallery link with all your photos within maximum 16 weeks (sometimes less depending on the season I photograph your story). You can download all the photos from the gallery but also share them, choose your favorites, and also print elsewhere or order prints all from my site!
How many pictures will we receive?
For an 8-hour coverage wedding, you will receive at least 50 edited images per hour. I always choose quality rather than quantity and that's why I will choose the best and more significant photos to tell your story. The pictures should flow with the wedding day and should always bring back those wonderful, sweet memories that would have otherwise been forgotten.